Child Poverty

Civil Rights Community Demands Department of Education Put Students First

November 1, 2019 | National

Arrive at the intersection of educational inequality, poverty and racial inequity and you’ll find a legion of substandard for-profit higher education programs that have long been under scrutiny for their predatory practices, high cost and low value. Together with 20 organizations from the civil rights community, the Children’s Defense Fund recently signed a policy brief, Gainful Employment: A Civil Rights Perspective, to demand that the U.S. Department of Education act swiftly and hold for-profit colleges to account.

The brief examines the rise of the for-profit college industry, the exploitation of students of color by for-profit colleges and the failure of this administration and the Department of Education to enforce the Higher Education Act. Compared to their peers at public schools, students enrolled at for-profit colleges are less likely to graduate, more likely to take on debt and more likely to default on that debt. For-profit institutions are also particularly aggressive in recruiting students of color, which is why federal oversight and regulatory protections are especially important to the civil rights community. Additionally, low-income students and parents are targets of for-profit schools’ manipulative tactics.

We know one of the best strategies to end child poverty now is to ensure that parents and caregivers who can work are working jobs that pay enough to support a family. Obtaining technical skills and credentials can lead to gainful employment in a job that pays sufficient wages for parents to keep food on the table and meet basic needs. But for students enrolled in for-profit colleges, the debt load incurred is too often never balanced by sufficient income.

The Department of Education must stop shielding schools that are failing students and their families. The agency must issue a strong gainful employment rule to define in practical terms what accountability should like and protect its students—particularly students of color—from substandard career programs.

Read the brief.

See the full list of signatories.